Dare I even utter the words… the end of summer is upon us already? Crazy to even think about it, but here we are again: the list of needed school supplies, uniforms, lunch boxes and back packs! It’s the same routine this time every year. But maybe, for some, this year is a bit different. Maybe it’s the first year of High School? Perhaps you’ve recently moved and it’s a new town and school altogether? Or maybe this summer’s excitement included a Celiac diagnoses or other food intolerance/allergy? Regardless, for some, this school year will bring a new level of stress… not just for the children, but for the parents. too!
What’s a parent to do? Your child now has Celiac disease and you’re about to send them off to essentially be by themselves for 7 hours, unsupervised, in a building with countless others who have no idea what “silly-axe” is, right? The images in your head are insane! I know. Lisa and I had them, too. You’ve finally just figuring out how to deal with this crazy new food thing and now it’s time to send them off on their own!
OK, lets reel it back in a bit. The reality is you can’t be with your child every moment of the day. But, you can make a stressful situation more manageable with a little preparation and assistance from a few trusted people. Unless your child is old enough to advocate for themselves, it’s pretty easy to determine who those folks are in a school setting. When Lisa and I first faced this very issue we identified the people who were going to be with our child the most… the teacher. Perfect! But is that enough? In most situations, every year your child gets a new teacher, so that means reeducating a new teacher every year to the needs of your child. While this is necessary by default, we found that having the school nurse on your advocacy team is one of the best decisions you could make. The school nurse will be the consistency you need in the school setting from year to year and can be a valuable resource for other school staff to go to for information or assistance in your absence. Not to mention, having that consistency will bring a sense of comfort for your child knowing they have someone they can trust available to them if they need assistance.
Education. That is the biggest tool you have in your arsenal to combat Celiac disease in the school setting. From the beginning of the school year, ask to meet with your child’s teacher right away to discuss, in great detail, what Celiac disease means for your child. If you can get the school nurse involved in that meeting, that’s even better! Otherwise, plan on a separate meeting to secure that team member! As your child continues their career as a student, you’ll be able to use the school nurse and past teachers to help educate others as you move forward. It’s a brilliant scheme!
Now, this isn’t going to be a one and done educational session. As you know, Celiac education is an ever evolving process. Learn as you go and pass it on! Stay in constant communication with your child’s teacher and encourage room moms/dads to keep you in the loop with class activities involving food. Create a plan where you can keep gluten free treats in the classroom for parties or other special occasions. We sent in Udi’s gluten free cupcakes and the staff agreed to stash them in the teacher’s lounge freezer for those days when a fellow student brought in birthday cupcakes! A flawless plan!
It’s plans like this that help keep your child from feeling, well… like an outcast! I hate to use that description, but I think you understand my point. No child likes to be labeled! So the more you can do to make every possible situation feel normal the better! A Celiac diagnoses is a huge, life changing event. We never want to make our children feel different on purpose, but sometimes its out of our control. We’ll just have to create a new normal! Best of luck in the new school year!
Have questions? Contact us below… we’d love to hear from you!